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Angelina as Medea or Lolita — why not?

Now that they’ve rewritten the role of Grendel’s mother for her in “Beowulf,” why not cast her as revamped versions of Lady Macbeth, Anna Karenina… or even King Lear? By Alonso Duralde

Angelina Jolie is a thoroughly modern woman — living in unmarried bliss with one of the world’s most handsome movie stars, raising a rainbow coalition of orphans from around the world (as well as her own biological offspring), and traveling the globe to lobby for human rights. But in the new film “Beowulf,” she takes on one of ancient literature’s more notable female roles, as the beast Grendel’s seductive yet monstrous mother.

The film departs from the eighth century epic poem at various junctures, most notably in its handling of Grendel’s mother and her relationships with both Beowulf (Ray Winstone) and King Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins). But what’s a little tweaking when you can cast the voluptuous Jolie, a screen siren with the seductive power to make even straight women and gay men think about playing for the other team?

Perhaps Jolie might be convinced to take on some other notable roles from classic literature, particularly if they could be updated a bit:

Lady Macbeth: One of Shakespeare’s more formidable creations, her insatiable ambition drives her husband to commit murder to ascend the throne of Scotland; alas, she is driven mad by her scheming. Modern twist: Growing weary of her husband’s wishy-washiness, Lady Macbeth hires hit-archers to take him out so that she may become Queen of Scotland. She pays homage to her first husband, however, by wearing a vial of his blood around her neck.

Madame Bovary: The sexually rapacious Emma Bovary conducts various affairs under her dull husband’s nose, but she eventually commits suicide over her mounting debt. Modern twist: Emma writes a lurid tell-all; despite being banned by the Catholic Church, her racy memoirs become a huge hit and she is able to pay off all her debts. She leaves her husband Charles and moves to Paris, where she has her ex’s name tattooed to her breast.

Lolita: OK, yes, Jolie is a tad old to be playing Nabokov’s nymphet, but if the effects wizards behind “Fred Claus” can put the faces of John Michael Higgins and Ludacris onto little people, anything’s possible, right? Modern twist: In this version, Lolita has a brother to whom she is very, very, very close, and he rescues her from Humbert Humbert.

Medea: Although this legendary character from Roman and Greek literature differs slightly depending on which version you read, Medea was responsible for murdering her brother and scattering his body parts hither and yon to distract her father from chasing after her and husband Jason. Later, after Jason leaves her for another woman, Medea sends the new wife a cloak designed to burn up anyone who wears it. Oh, and then Medea murders her own children that were fathered by Jason. Modern twist: Medea wins Jason’s ship, the Argo, from him in a divorce, and then travels the known world adopting orphaned children to add to her family. Then she sells exclusive photo rights to her latest child to the ancient Roman edition of OK! magazine for one million lire.

Alison, the Landlord’s Wife: In “The Miller’s Tale,” the bawdiest of Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales,” a student manages to bed the wife of his landlord; complications ensue when one of her other suitors puts his lips up to a peephole expecting a kiss from her, only to be greeted by her other end. Modern twist: None. Get the Farrelly Brothers on rewrite.

The Duchess of Guermantes: The narrator of Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time” is obsessed with this queen bee of Parisian society, doing whatever he can to enter her lofty circles and bask in the radiance of her celebrity. Modern twist: Again, none. In fact, if test audiences say they can’t pronounce “Guermantes,” why not just name the character “Angelina Jolie”?

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Anna Karenina: Tolstoy’s tragic heroine has one of literature’s great doomed romances with Count Vronsky, but after her husband Alexei refuses to give her a divorce so she can marry Vronsky, a distraught Anna throws herself in front of a train. Modern twist: At the last moment, Anna changes her mind and runs up and over the speeding locomotive, “Matrix”-style. She then has a martial-arts battle with Alexei involving lots of wire work. Later, she has a very public estrangement from her father (played by Jon Voight).

King Lear: Why should one of the theater’s greatest roles be played only by men? While Jolie managed to win a best supporting actress Oscar for “Girl, Interrupted” without having to ugly herself up, how could the Academy fail to give her best actress statuette for burying herself in layers and layers of makeup to play a man in his 70s? Modern twist: Lear is a Rupert Murdoch–style media magnate dividing his empire between three ungrateful daughters. Audiences will be shocked when the story suddenly shifts to being about Lear stealing the attractive spouse of a beloved sitcom star. Suddenly, “Team Lear” T-shirts begin popping up all over Los Angeles.

Duralde is the author of “101 Must-See Movies for Gay Men” (Advocate Books); find him at .